Guest Editorial by Sr. Journalist Charles Robinson: Part II – State of Black Politics 2020

(BALTIMORE – September 5, 2020) – In this second installment, I look at Black Republicans. They may be small in number, but don’t discount their impact. I also look at what you should be watching this election season.

Repubs

There are so many mixed messages when it comes to Black Politics. There are a lot of sycophants who have bought into the Trump message. In the past, it was all about “Find me a Black Republican?” There weren’t as many, but they held on to several ideas. It included economic empowerment, Black business, anti-abortion, and inter-generational wealth.

Turning Point USA, an organization run by Charlie Kirk, and Candace Owens, the author of Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape From the Democrat Plantation, have become the darlings of the “Trump World.” They tapped into young people, especially African-Americans, a group they have had the most difficulty in recruiting. It’s clear, they are not the old GOP. They are a part of the cult of personality. Kayne West has been tapped as their go-to personality. West infamously told a live television audience, “George Bush does care about Black people.” He’s all in on the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again.” His arrival at the White House and his attempt to get on the presidential ballot in states as an independent is perceived as a “red herring.” He lost most of his credibility when he suggested “Slavery was a choice.”

I have described the four days of the Republican Convention in a phrase and single words on my Facebook page. First night, “I want to change the narrative.” For the next three nights, single words: “Trumpian,” “Contrast,” and “Grievance.” When you have the stage, you don’t need distractions. It seemed like the idea of, “Who you do want to believe, me or your lying eyes?” The President’s base sees the world through his words and ideas. That’s effective until they run up against the reality of events on the ground (Hurricane Laura, 180,000 deaths from Covid-19, and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin). You can ignore it, but what happens when major sports teams recognize Blake’s shooting and decide sports aren’t important? It was part of a dueling narrative.

Creating New Black Candidates

“You are either with me, or against me.” This has created a number of candidates across the nation. Aligning with the President means you get the largest endorsements and the monetary rewards. I point you to Kim Klacik, a Republican candidate in the 7th Congressional District in Maryland. Mrs. Klacik wanted to replace the remaining term of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings. She lost to former Congressman Kwiesi Mfume by a 3-1 margin (the District is 65-75% Democrat). She literally has no chance of winning. (FYI, she doesn’t live in the District, but says she will if elected.) She launched a viral campaign. It got noticed by President Trump and her YouTube views are over 11 million and counting. Also, money has flowed into her campaign coffers from outside the district.

This is typical of a number of Republican candidates in this current era. They’ll run without a base of Black support and point out the shortcomings of their Democratic opponent or what he/she hasn’t done in the district. When they are challenged, a standard list of complaints are at the ready (the most recent are “Democrats have been in charge.” – “What do you have to lose?” – “Law and Order.”). There are some perquisites, though: you must be social media savvy, be prepared to go into the “lions’ den”(the district), and endorse the remedies proposed by POTUS.

So where can you find these candidates? They are sometimes affiliated with non-denominational churches/groups (not all). Black graduates of Liberty/Oral Roberts/Brigham Young Universities are prime targets. Their faith in God is unquestioned. You’ll sometimes see them as the only Black person in a predominately white religious service. There are a pair of litmus tests, against birth control (in all forms) and being anti-abortion. They will tell you how they pulled themselves up “by their bootstraps,” and don’t understand why their relatives couldn’t do the same. The evils of society are evident to them but they often appear to gloss over what is happening on the ground. They often have a conversion story about, “I use to be a Democrat.” Their connection to the Black community is through faith, the military/police, and being Black. They have bucked the system and thrown off the idea of “group think.”

VP Mike Pence recently spoke at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore

The Packaging

There are several items at work this political season. It includes efforts to diminish turnout, sow confusion, and “Can I talk to you for a moment?” The turnout question is baked into the equation. Republicans know a high turnout will never keep them in power. The President said as much when questioned about mail-in voting. “If we allow mail-in voting, Republicans will never win,” according to President Trump.

There is a “stay-tuned to moment” almost every day. A pair of crises – the Coronavirus and protest in the streets in favor of Black Lives Matter (especially their white counterparts) – are wildcards in this idea to sow confusion. Initially, POTUS thought he was in control when reporting-out data on Covid-19. There is nothing he can do about deaths, but blaming others, he hopes will shield himself.

The social unrest has given the GOP and the POTUS a more reasonable messaging ensemble. “Chaos in the streets, support for the police, and they are coming for you” are old tropes that have been dusted off. There is a sense from some GOP operatives that the more the social unrest, the better for the President. It may work in the short-term, but there are long-term consequences.

The last request was on display and heard during the RNC Convention: “He isn’t as bad as his tweets seem.” Most of us are never as bad as people say we are (I know). This is different. I listen to a number of different people whose political backgrounds are varied. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” is harmless but I personally watch who is doing the asking. Do not be shocked if it comes from a religious leader. The motivation to talk may be cloaked in this idea, “You believe in Jesus/God?” The recent phenomena are likely to come via social media (since we’re trying to social distance).

What to Watch

I put a second question to Bret Schafer during a Council of Foreign Affairs Webinar on Disinformation and Election 2020 what happens when there is a lack of information.

https://www.cfr.org/conference-calls/disinformation-and-election-2020

Charles Robinson: I want to drill down on this idea that during this election. Many states are looking at either giving out absentee ballots versus having people physically come in.

Bret Schafer: There is a lack of clarity on how people can vote this time around. This, I think, is the number one concern and the closer we get to Election Day without clarity, the more problematic this is going to be because anytime there’s an information void and a gap in information, this is going to be filled by people who are going to want to get their own sort of opinions out there to manipulate the conversation … It’s going to come down to them having a plan well in advance and communicating that plan because otherwise, every possible opportunity is out there for bad actors to try to suppress the vote by giving people false information.

Voting

It will test who we are as Americans and challenge African-Americans to see who they want to be. It will be different this time. A Pew Research poll showed 95% of the electorate have made up their minds and are ready to vote. That is either a testament to how engaged people are or a measurement of how polarized the country is. Note: This as a statement of fact: “If you don’t vote, you have no reason to complain.”